An exhibition of raw pace and accurate bowling followed by a partnership involving belligerent and sensible batting helped Rest of India dominate the opening day’s proceedings of the Irani Cup tie against Saurashtra.
The trio of Mukesh Kumar, Kuldeep Sen and Umran Malik exposed the frailties of Saurashtra batters while facing genuine pace bowling to bundle the 2019-20 Ranji Trophy champion out for a paltry 98, the fifth lowest total in the Irani Cup, in the first session at the Saurashtra Cricket Association stadium.
Captain Hanuma Vihari (62*, 145b, 9x4, 1x6) and run-machine Sarfaraz Khan (125*, 126b, 19x4, 2x6) then bailed Rest of India out of trouble from a precarious 18 for three. The duo’s unbroken 187-run association - with Sarfaraz toying with the bowlers en route a 92-ball hundred - put Rest of India in charge, ending the day at 205 for three, with a lead of 107.
Barring the over-rate, everything else moved fast on the opening day. The fact that seven Saurashtra batters were caught behind wickets underlined that they couldn’t handle the pace of the Rest of India trio, all of whom bowled in the perfect channel.
Mukesh and Sen struck up front, reducing Saurashtra to five for four in the first half hour. While Mukesh struck off successive balls in the third over, Sen saw the back of mainstay Cheteshwar Pujara, whose audacious slash saw Vihari pouching the thick edge off the second attempt.
Mukesh bowled a marathon spell, seeing Sheldon Jackson off with another one in the channel. Umran then showcased his raw pace, first snaring through Arpit Vasavada’s defence and then striking into Jaydev Unadkat’s off-stump with a peach of a yorker.
At the cusp of Lunch, Umran first softened Dharmenda Jadeja, the highest scorer, with a short ball that thudded into the batter’s helmet before letting him scoop one to covers and put an end to Saurashtra’s miserable morning.
Unadkat and his young left-arm pace colleague then took a cue from Rest of India pacers to pitch the ball to precision and see off the Rest of India top three. In came Sarfaraz and started with a flurry of boundaries to take off the pressure.
Sarfaraz was at his dominant best as he displayed all the strokes in his array. From the straight-drive, cover-drive and late cut to his trademark upper cut, pulls and sweeps, Sarfaraz impressed yet again en route his 10th First-Class hundred.
In the last session, he tonked Unadkat for 16 runs in an over, racing from fifty to hundred in just 42 balls.
With Vihari also using his feet against the spinners, Rest of India gained ascendancy. While it will be delighted with the proceedings, besides its morning display on a moist pitch, Saurashtra will be ruing wicketkeeper Snell Patel’s missed stumping of Vihari in the dying minutes.